eThekwini city manager under fire, call for him to be suspended

The Municipal Public Accounts Committee (Mpac) is set to receive reports on the alleged wrongdoing by eThekwini municipal manager Musa Mbhele today.

eThekwini Municipality city manager Musa Mbhele has come under fire for allegedly failing to disclose there was pending disciplinary action against him when he was being interviewed for the post. File Picture: eThekwini Municipality.

Published May 4, 2023

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Durban - Pressure is mounting on eThekwini municipal manager Musa Mbhele following calls for his removal due to allegations that he had failed to disclose an ongoing investigation against him during the interview for the top job.

The ANC yesterday said Mbhele was not their first choice for city manager, while the DA called for his suspension due to the allegations.

The Municipal Public Accounts Committee (Mpac) is set to receive reports on the alleged wrongdoing today.

When Mbhele was appointed last year, it was during the second round of the interview process. The process had to be re-run because the council had rejected the candidate who had been put forward in the first round of interviews.

A few weeks ago, allegations dating back to 2016 surfaced against Mbhele. It was alleged that he had pending disciplinary action against him when he was appointed which was allegedly not disclosed during the selection process.

DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said yesterday that the party would write to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, requesting that Mbhele be removed immediately.

Mthethwa, who was part of the interview panel that recommended Mbhele, said the screening committee should have provided the interview panel with the 2019 report issued by the City Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU).

The report allegedly implicates Mbhele in a violation of the Municipal Finance Management Act for entering into a Memorandum of Agreement that changed the terms of a tender contract without council approval.

“According to the report, disciplinary processes were recommended against him, but they were not implemented when he was appointed city manager. This report was never presented to Exco and Council, nor was it supplied to the selection panel that ultimately approved Mbhele’s appointment,” he said.

Mthethwa said the report was clearly kept under wraps to ensure that the appointment of Mbhele would go unchallenged, fulfilling the agenda of factional battles within the ANC.

“The DA would not have endorsed the employment of the city manager, being fully aware of his pending disciplinary hearing,” said Mthethwa.

In a media briefing, ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said it was unreasonable to expect the ANC to be accountable for Mbhele’s appointment.

“You know that the first choice of the ANC for city manager was not the current city manager. But all parties in the council stood against the ANC.”

Mtolo said even mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, who is mandated to chair the interview panel of such a senior appointment, did not sit in the interview panel. The panel was chaired by former deputy mayor Philani Mavundla.

Mtolo said as a result, the ANC was taken out of the process, adding however, that the allegations against Mbhele were still just allegations.

A member of the Mpac committee, speaking on condition of anonymity said, the committee would get a report on the allegations against Mbhele but it also expected a report on whether there was any cover-up of the allegations.

“We want to know why no action was taken and whether there was any cover up,” said the committee member.

Chairperson of Mpac, councillor Thami Xuma, said Mpac was concerned about the allegations, saying they could destabilise the municipality.

“If the CIIU says there were recommendations made against the city manager, the natural questions will be why those recommendations were not implemented.

“The city manager is key to the stability of the municipality, and following the allegations that have been out in the public space, we felt the need for the CIIU to come and present their report to the committee again,” said Xuma.